The cream of Europe’s golfers will be polishing up their putting just south of Paris this week in the final countdown to the 42nd Ryder Cup.
But back in the late 1970s, the competition that attracted Europe’s elite was the Greater Manchester Open held each year at Wilmslow Golf Club.
The tournament ran from 1976 to 1981 and featured all the big names from the European circuit, including Nick Faldo, Eamonn Darcy, Des Smyth and Bernard Gallacher.
There were quite a few celebrity guests too, many from the world of football. Manchester’s soccer stars were well known for their golfing prowess – and so were their managers!
Players regularly took part in charity events – a tradition that continues today – and were only too pleased to be pictured on the tee or green.
M.E.N. archive photos show a long line of golfing footballers from Denis Law and Don Revie to Brian McClair and David Beckham. Even fierce rivals like Manchester United’s Nobby Stiles and City’s Mike Summerbee teamed up at golf.
The first Greater Manchester Open, played in 1976, was won by Ireland’s John O’Leary with a score of 276 – four ahead of runner-up John Fourie of South Africa. Prize money for O’Leary was a princely £2,200.
The winner’s purse had nearly doubled to £4,000 the following year when Ireland’s Eamonn Darcy triumphed by eight strokes with a score of 269.
Second place was a three-way tie between Brian Barnes and Ken Brown of Scotland and John Morgan of England.
Barnes went one better in 1978, beating Nick Job and Dennis Durnian from England and New Zealand’s Bob Charles in a four-way play-off. Barnes’ score was 275. He won the play-off at the first extra hole with a birdie three.
The 1980 final was another close-run thing with Des Smyth of Ireland (273) winning a play-off against England’s Brian Waites at the sixth extra hole with a birdie three.
The final Greater Manchester Open, played in 1981, was won by Scotland’s Bernard Gallacher. He was five strokes ahead of English professional Nick Faldo with a score of 264.
He scored ten threes in his third round – a feat gleefully recorded by the M.E.N. photographer who posed the Scot with ten score markers.
The total prize money in 1981 was £40,222, the third smallest on the European Tour. Gallacher’s first place earned him £7,000.
We’re not sure what the stakes were when Manchester United footballers including Colin Webster, Gordon Clayton and Shay Brennan played at Norbreck near Blackpool in February 1957.
The players’ choice of tracksuits and socks certainly smacked of less formal attire, unlike their footballing colleagues from Manchester City who played golf at Eastbourne on the eve of the 1955 FA Cup Final.
Don Revie, Joe Haynes and Paul Roy looked the part in blazers, ties and slacks. Unfortunately they lost the Wembley final 1-3 to Newcastle.
Denis Law and his United team-mates Paddy Crerand and Maurice Setters were pictured striding out at the Fairhaven course, Lytham, in November 1964.
Their team bonding clearly worked as United were Division One champions that season. Law was the top scorer with 39 goals in all competitions.
United midfielder David Beckham joined his England team-mates on the golf course in May 2000 ahead of the UEFA European Football Championships.
Clearly the golf day failed to do the trick as the tournament proved a nightmare for England. After beating Germany in the group stages, they surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to Portugal.
England’s departure was guaranteed when they lost by the same scoreline to Romania in the next match. The national team’s dismal showing led to repeated calls for the Football Association to sack manager Kevin Keegan.
The beleaguered boss saved them the trouble by resigning in October 2000, straight after England lost 0-1 to Germany in their first 2002 World Cup qualifier.
It was a different European story at the Belfry golf course in September 1985. Team Europe won the Ryder Cup by 16.5 points to 11, ending 28 years of American dominance.
Nick Faldo, a veteran of the Greater Manchester Open, was delighted to get his hands on the prized trophy.
Will Europe triumph again when the final hole is played on the Albatros Course at Le Golf National, Paris, on Sunday?